Monday, 23 February 2015

What's it Like to be a Slush Pile Reader? But More Importantly, How Can You Impress One?

I recently volunteered to work as a slush pile reader. I did this for a number of reasons.

As an aspiring writer myself I know exactly what it's like to submit work for consideration, to pour over your labour of love, watching your story take shape, take hold and then taking the plunge and sending it out there in the hope of it being accepted for publication.  I also love reading, and working as a slush pile reader seemed something fun to do.

I also have to admit that I had a slightly ulterior motive. Working as a slush pile reader  would allow me to  gain a valuable insight into how publishers select manuscripts.

And I'm going to share my insiders knowledge.

So the good news is  that if the publishers are small and independent they're probably run by writers for writers. There's also a very good chance that the slush readers are writers too and have volunteered for the love of reading and to help support their fellow comrades of writing.

 For example when undertaking this task, I really wanted to discover a good manuscript as I know how amazing it would be to have your worked plucked out of obscurity and given a chance.

So yes slush pile readers are on your side, they want you to succeed.

How to get your manuscript to stand out to a slush reader?

Titles are everything

In my case, the slush pile was arranged so that slush readers could choose what they wanted to read. That choice was made solely on the strength of the titles of the manuscripts. There was no brief synopsis to inform the reader of the manuscript content so the choice was made only through the strength of title. There were a few that never got picked and unfortunately were probably not read.

So make sure your title is attention grabbing.

Make the first few pages count

Just like with writing a short story or a novel you  need to reel your reader in quickly through the deployment of a killer hook.

We were told to read  the first ten pages of a manuscript and if by then we were enjoying reading the story we were instructed to read on til fourth chapter and if we were still interested to read on further. Many slush readers volunteer for this meaning this is something they do in their spare time on top of their day jobs and other commitments. The fact is, they're busy people and won't waste their time reading boring manuscripts.

Due to the high number of submissions received it is really important to grab a slush readers' attention as there will be many manuscripts to get through and each slush reader feels it their duty to help sift out great manuscripts and do their bit for the writing community. If they don't feel that your manuscript has potential they'll mark it with a big NO  and move on to the next one looking for that elusive bestseller or failing that a darn good read.

What are the common mistakes seen by slush readers?

Incorrect manuscript presentation

This should go without saying but it's a huge problem and unfortunately many manuscripts will be rejected without being read if it does not adhere to manuscript presentation specifications set out by the publishers. Do your homework before sending your work in.

Info dumps

Info dumps are where tonnes of boring information usually of no relevance to the plot is dumped onto a reader causing them to get bored. Background information is vital to any story regardless of genre but there are a variety of ways it can be communicated such as through speech between characters.

Info dumps are commonly seen in the fantasy genres especially when the stories are set in a fictional world or alternative reality. In fiction less can be more, don't give too much away. Your reader will be happy to speculate early on and wait for more information to either back up their theories or form new ones with new information.

So in short make sure that all your background information has direct relevance to your plot.

Too little background information

It is also possible to reveal  too little background information that leaves the reader confused and clueless as to what's going on. Whilst it's good to hold back and leave your readers wanting more, you can run the risk of your reader being kept out of the loop and subsequently not feel emotionally involved with the story.

The story is told rather than shown

Admittedly this is hard to achieve, but it really sorts out the wheat from the chaff. In simple terms when a story is told it will read like a news report which contains mostly facts and eyewitness accounts.
Rather than telling us - Julie was scared. You can show it - Julie stood rooted on the spot, trembling with wide eyes, clutching her chest in a bid to keep her heart from jumping out of its ribcage.

Remember us humans have five senses, use them all to make your story come alive, don't make mistake of using just sight, there's also sound, smell, taste and touch to be explored. Explore all of these to make your work standout.

Show don't tell.

An over complicated plot

Plots are best kept simple to allow your reader to sit back and enjoy the story. An ever changing plot is very confusing and frustrating.

A non-existent plot

Without a sustainable plot it's just a series of rambling events with no real significance to the reader or characters.

Snail pace story

The story needs to start straight away. It's very frustrating reading a manuscript patiently waiting for it all to kick off and then getting half way through to realise nothing has happened and you've wasted your time in reading that far.

About the Author

S.J.Budd is a writer of all things weird and creepy. Previously her tales have been featured on Deandman's Tome,  Sanitarium Magazine, Dark Gothic Resurrected, Liquid Imagination, Aphotic Realm, Aurora Wolf, Aphelion, Blood Moon Rising Magazine, The Wild Hunt, Danse Macabre, Shadows at the Door, Inner Sins, Bewildering Stories, Siren's Call and many more.
She lives at  and  @sjbuddj 
Spells and Persuasions, her debut collection of short stories of horror and dark fantasy is available now in paperback and kindle from Amazon

The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss

If you're a fan of fantasy literature then this man needs no introduction. He's a master of his craft and his first two novels, The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man's Fear the first two instalments of The Kingkiller Chronicles deserve to have a place on every book shelf. They are simply a must read.

Fans of Patrick Rothfuss are eagerly impatiently awaiting the final instalment of the trilogy, The Doors of Stone which does not currently have a release date, believe me the wait is far worse than waiting for the fifth series of Game of Thrones .

However Patrick Rothfuss has released a novella titled The Slow Regard of Silent Things which is set in the same world of The Kingkiller Chronicles and is centred around Auri a character featured in his first two books and is one of the more mysterious characters featured.

I was a bit apprehensive in reading this as there have been mixed reviews even the author himself warns that the reader may not enjoy it. I think this is due to his legions of fans getting  very impatient over the wait for book three, The Doors of Stone.

This book is very wildly different to the first two, it has a childlike feel to it and I am instantly remineded of my love for Rothfuss's imagery, "chill and sweet as peppermint". The effect is intensified by the inclusion of some beautiful illustrastions by Nate Taylor.
The Slow Regard of Silent Things reads like a fairytale, I think Rothfuss is right in that you should read his two previous books before this one as you will not be familiar with the back story or the beautiful strangeness of Auri's mysterious character.

The plot is also mysterious, at first I'm not sure what it is apart from a slow regard of silent things, but Auri is  utterly enchanting and strangely captivating that I find myself seeing her world  through her eyes where  the underthing is a massive playground waiting to be explored by an eager child. I want to know more about it and whether it will reveal anything about the doors of Stone!

After reading this I discovered that Auri is an enigma and always will be, but I like that. Not everything in life needs to be explained. The book has a dreamlike feel to it. Incredibly this story has only one character - Auri, and pays no attention to the most basic plot requirements of having at least two characters, a protagonist and antagonist and creating conflict between them. There is none of  that in this strangely compelling story but yet it's a great read. I feel like I've been given a glimpse into Patrick Rothfuss's mind.

Furthermore it has made me even more desperate to read the final instalment of the brilliant Kingkiller Chronicles which I fear is going to be a long wait.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Lady Luck Strikes Again

Recently I received my second dose of good fortune, one of my short stories has been accepted by a magazine. This is my second short story to be published and I'm over the moon.

You can read it here, titled Hold Me Tight by S.J.Budd  at Siren's Call Publications which produces a free ezine available on their website, it's well worth a read and includes flash fiction, short stories, poetry, artwork and interviews with WiHM founder Hannah Neurotic and writer/director/filmmaker Heidi Lee Douglas.

The issue in which I am fortunate enough to be included in is  celebrating Women in Horror Month which you may have heard about. It aims to provide women with the opportunity of exposure in a heavily male dominated genre.

If you'd like to submit to Siren's Call Publications, and why not, you can visit the Short Dark Fiction Markets  for more details or go straight to their submission page

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Never Forget to Check Your Grammar and Punctuation

I have recently been blessed again with the news that every aspiring writer dreams of hearing; one of my short stories had been  accepted for publication.

I was thrilled. I'd sent off my story in the belief  that it wasn't very good but I had written it specifically for that magazine and it would be better to submit and be rejected than to leave it and regret not trying.

My joy soon turned to horror when the editor informed me they needed to make 18 revisions due to my poor grammar and punctuation. To be honest I had given birth to my second child three weeks ago meaning I was now functioning on very little sleep as well as being pre-occupied with not one, but now two little bundles of joy. In that position it's easy to make mistakes and not realise whilst writing.

However the fact remains,  a unprofessional inexperienced writer in very quickly exposed through terrible screaming grammar and punctuation use in their work.

18 Revisions!

I was horrified, I thought I had been diligent in previously revising grammar and punctuation use. I thought I had it sussed and committed to memory. I was wrong.

Though I had learnt a very valuable lesson. Never forget to check your use of grammar and punctuation.

I guess some more revision is needed for me to avoid any more mishaps in the future. Bad grammar and punctuation can make your work really stand out, but for the wrong reasons.

Luckily in my case the editor was a lovely kind woman who was forgiving and willing to look past my errors and give me a chance. Next time I probably wouldn't be so lucky.

So the moral of this post? Always check your grammar  and punctuation and always revise what you think you know. Correct use of grammar and punctuation is just as imporarant as your style and substance.

For articles on improving your Grammar and Punctuation click here to be taken to home page

What Are The Types of Short Stories You Shouldn't Be Writing?

It's very hard to start out as a writer, you need your stories to be highly original so that they will stand out and be memorable to editors. But how can you be sure that what your writing is original and not over done?

Whilst researching short fiction markets for my page - Short Dark Fiction Markets - I came across a very useful list of short stories that have been over done. This page comes from Strange Horizons who have complied a very detailed list of the types of stories they are sick of. They have also very kindly allowed for their list to be shared.

Strange Horizons is a weekly magazine that specialises in speculative fiction and non fiction. They welcome short stories which feature science fiction, fantasy, horror and slipstream. This is a great magazine to be published in as some of their featured stories have been nominated or won various awards such as the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards.

Stories We've Seen Too Often at Strange Horizons

(List last updated 10 March 2012)
For information about what we're looking for and how to submit, see our main fiction guidelines page.
The following list is an attempt at classifying the kinds of non-horror plots and themes that we've received too frequently. We have a separate page for horror stories we've seen too often.
Main plot types are numbered; subspecies and variants receive letters.
This is not a canonical list of bad stories or story cliches. This is a list of types of stories that we at SH have seen too often; it's not intended to be a complete list of all types of bad stories, nor are all the items on the list necessarily bad.
We often receive stories that match items on this list but that have cover letters saying "This matches something on your list, but I've done something new and unique and different with it." Such stories almost always turn out to be very similar to other stories we've seen. If your story is a close match to one or more items on this list (especially if it's a close enough match that you feel the need to include a cover-letter disclaimer), you may want to consult some friends who are well-read in the genre before deciding that it's probably different from what we see all the time. (And by the way, we often don't read cover letters until after we've read the story.)
One more thing: We know it's tempting to look at this list as a challenge. Please don't. In particular, please don't send us stories that intentionally incorporate one or more of these items.
Note to bloggers and other potential reprinters: See end of page for reprint guidelines.
Here's the list:
  1. Person is (metaphorically) at point A, wants to be at point B. Looks at point B, says "I want to be at point B." Walks to point B, encountering no meaningful obstacles or difficulties. The end. (A.k.a. the linear plot.)
  2. Creative person is having trouble creating.
    1. Writer has writer's block.
    2. Painter can't seem to paint anything good.
    3. Sculptor can't seem to sculpt anything good.
    4. Creative person's work is reviled by critics who don't understand how brilliant it is.
    5. Creative person meets a muse (either one of the nine classical Muses or a more individual muse) and interacts with them, usually by keeping them captive.
  3. Visitor to alien planet ignores information about local rules, inadvertantly violates them, is punished.
    1. New diplomat arrives on alien planet, ignores anthropologist's attempts to explain local rules, is punished.
  4. Weird things happen, but it turns out they're not real.
    1. In the end, it turns out it was all a dream.
    2. In the end, it turns out it was all in virtual reality.
    3. In the end, it turns out the protagonist is insane.
    4. In the end, it turns out the protagonist is writing a novel and the events we've seen are part of the novel.
  5. An AI gets loose on the Net, but the author doesn't have a clear concept of what it means for software to be "loose on the Net." (For example, the computer it was on may not be connected to the Net.)
  6. Technology and/or modern life turn out to be soulless.
    1. Office life turns out to be soul-deadening, literally or metaphorically.
    2. All technology is shown to be soulless; in contrast, anything "natural" is by definition good. For example, living in a weather-controlled environment is bad, because it's artificial, while dying of pneumonia is good, because it's natural.
    3. The future is utopian and is considered by some or many to be perfect, but perfection turns out to be boring and stagnant and soul-deadening; it turns out that only through imperfection, pain, misery, and nature can life actually be good.
    4. In the future, all learning is soulless and electronic, until kid is exposed to ancient wisdom in the form of a book.
    5. In the future, everything is soulless and electronic, until protagonist (usually a kid) is exposed to ancient wisdom in the form of a wise old person who's lived a non-electronic life.
  7. Protagonist is a bad person. [We don't object to this in a story; we merely object to it being the main point of the plot.]
    1. Bad person is told they'll get the reward that they "deserve," which ends up being something bad.
    2. Terrorists (especially Osama bin Laden) discover that horrible things happen to them in the afterlife (or otherwise get their comeuppance).
    3. Protagonist is portrayed as really awful, but that portrayal is merely a setup for the ending, in which they see the error of their ways and are redeemed. (But reading about the awfulness is so awful that we never get to the end to see the redemption.)
  8. A place is described, with no plot or characters.
  9. A "surprise" twist ending occurs. [Note that we do like endings that we didn't expect, as long as they derive naturally from character action. But note, too, that we've seen a lot of twist endings, and we find most of them to be pretty predictable, even the ones not on this list.]
    1. The characters' actions are described in a way meant to fool the reader into thinking they're humans, but in the end it turns out they're not humans, as would have been obvious to anyone looking at them.
    2. Creatures are described as "vermin" or "pests" or "monsters," but in the end it turns out they're humans.
    3. The author conceals some essential piece of information from the reader that would be obvious if the reader were present at the scene, and then suddenly reveals that information at the end of the story. [This can be done well, but rarely is.]
    4. Person is floating in a formless void; in the end, they're born.
    5. Person uses time travel to achieve some particular result, but in the end something unexpected happens that thwarts their plan.
    6. The main point of the story is for the author to metaphorically tell the reader, "Ha, ha, I tricked you! You thought one thing was going on, but it was really something else! You sure are dumb!"
    7. A mysteriously-named Event is about to happen ("Today was the day Jimmy would have to report for The Procedure"), but the nature of the Event isn't revealed until the end of the story, when it turns out to involve death or other unpleasantness. [Several classic sf stories use this approach, which is one reason we're tired of seeing it. Another reason is that we can usually guess the twist well ahead of time, which makes the mysteriousness annoying.]
    8. In the future, an official government permit is required in order to do some particular ordinary thing, but the specific thing a permit is required for isn't (usually) revealed until the end of the story.
    9. Characters speculate (usually jokingly): "What if X were true of the universe?" (For example: "What if the universe is a simulation?") At the end, something happens that implies that X is true.
    10. Characters in the story (usually in the far future and/or on an alien planet) use phrases that are phonetic respellings or variations of modern English words or phrases, such as "Hyoo Manz" or "Pleja Legions," which the reader isn't intended to notice; in the end, a surprise twist reveals that there's a connection to 20th/21st-century English speakers.
  10. Someone calls technical support; wacky hijinx ensue.
    1. Someone calls technical support for a magical item.
    2. Someone calls technical support for a piece of advanced technology.
    3. The title of the story is 1-800-SOMETHING-CUTE.
  11. Scientist uses himself or herself as test subject.
  12. Evil unethical doctor performs medical experiments on unsuspecting patient.
  13. In the future, criminals are punished much more harshly than they are today.
    1. In the future, the punishment always fits the crime.
    2. The author is apparently unaware of the American constitutional amendment prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment, and so postulates that in the future, American punishment will be extra-cruel in some unusual way.
  14. White protagonist is given wise and mystical advice by Holy Simple Native Folk.
  15. Story is based in whole or part on a D&D game or world.
    1. A party of D&D characters (usually including a fighter, a magic-user, and a thief, one of whom is a half-elf and one a dwarf) enters a dungeon (or the wilderness, or a town, or a tavern) and fights monsters (usually including orcs).
    2. Story is the origin story of a D&D character, culminating in their hooking up with a party of adventurers.
    3. A group of real-world humans who like roleplaying find themselves transported to D&D world.
  16. An alien or an AI/robot/android observes and comments on the peculiar habits of humans, for allegedly comic effect.
    1. The alien or AI is fluent in English and completely familiar with various English idioms, but is completely unfamiliar with human biology and/or with such concepts as sex or violence and/or with certain specific extremely common English words (such as "cat").
    2. The alien or AI takes everything literally.
    3. Instead of an alien or AI, it's people in the future commenting on the ridiculous things (usually including internal combustion engines) that people used to use in the unenlightened past.
  17. Space travel is wonderful and will solve all our problems. [We agree that space travel is pretty cool, but we'd rather that weren't the whole point of the story.]
  18. Man has an awful, shrewish wife; in the end he gets revenge on her, by (for example) killing her or leaving her.
    1. Man is entirely blameless, innocent, mild-mannered, and unobjectionable, and he kills his awful, shrewish wife entirely by accident, possibly in self-defense, so it's okay.
  19. Some characters are in favor of immersive VR, while others are opposed to it because it's not natural; they spend most of the story's length rehashing common arguments on both sides. [Full disclosure: one of our editors once wrote a story like this. It hasn't found a publisher yet, for some reason.]
  20. Person A tells a story to person B (or to a room full of people) about person C.
    1. In the end, it turns out that person B is really person C (or from the same organization).
    2. In the end, it turns out that person A is really person C (or has the same goals).
    3. In the end, there's some other ironic but predictable twist that would cast the whole story in a different light if the reader hadn't guessed the ending early on.
  21. People whose politics are different from the author's are shown to be stupid, insane, or evil, usually through satire, sarcasm, stereotyping, and wild exaggeration.
    1. In the future, the US or the world is ruled by politically correct liberals, leading to awful things (usually including loss of freedom of speech).
    2. In the future, the US or the world is ruled by fascist conservatives, leading to awful things (usually including loss of freedom of speech).
  22. Superpowered narrator claims that superhero stories never address the mundane problems that superheroes would run into in the real world.
  23. A princess has been raped or molested by her father (or stepfather), the king.
  24. Someone comes up with a great medical or technological breakthrough, but it turns out that it has unforeseen world-devastating consequences. [Again, this is a perfectly good plot element, but we're not thrilled when it's the whole point of the story.]
  25. It's immediately obvious to the reader that a mysterious character is from the future, but the other characters (usually including the protagonist) can't figure it out.
  26. Someone takes revenge for the wrongs done to them.
    1. Protagonist is put through heavy-handed humiliation after humiliation, and takes it meekly, until the end when he or she murders someone.
  27. The narrator and/or male characters in the story are bewildered about women, believing them to conform to any of the standard stereotypes about women: that they're mysterious, wacky, confusing, unpredictable, changeable, temptresses, etc.
  28. Strange and mysterious things keep happening. And keep happening. And keep happening. For over half the story. Relentlessly. Without even a hint of explanation.
    1. The protagonist is surrounded by people who know the explanation but refuse to give it.
    2. Story consists mostly of surreal dreamlike randomness.
  29. Author showcases their premise of what the afterlife is like; there's little or no story, other than demonstrating that premise.
    1. Hell and Heaven are run like businesses.
    2. The afterlife is really monotonous and dull.
    3. The afterlife is a bureaucracy.
    4. The afterlife is nothingness.
    5. The afterlife reunites you with your loved ones.
  30. Brutal violence against women is depicted in loving detail, often in a story that's ostensibly about violence against women being bad.
    1. Man is forced by circumstances or magic to rape a woman even though he really doesn't want to, honest.
    2. The main reason for the main female character to be in the story, and to be female, is so that she can be raped.
  31. Evil people hook the protagonist on an addictive substance and then start raising the price, ruining the protagonist's life.
  32. Fatness is used as a signal of evil, dissolution, and/or moral decay, usually with the unspoken assumption that it's completely obvious that fat people are immoral and disgusting. [Note: This does not mean all fat characters in stories must be good guys. We're just tired of seeing fat used as a cheap shorthand signifier of evil.]
    1. Someone wants to kill someone else, and that's perfectly reasonable because, after all, the victim-to-be is fat.
    2. The story spends a lot of time describing, over and over, just how fat a character is, and how awful that is.
    3. Physical contact with a fat person is understood to be obviously revolting.
  33. Protagonist agrees to go along with a plan or action despite not having enough information about it, and despite their worries that the thing will be bad. Then the thing turns out to be bad after all.
  34. Teen's family doesn't understand them.
  35. Twee little fairies with wings fly around being twee.
  36. Sentient toys, much like the ones from Toy Story, interact with each other.
  37. In a comedic/satirical story, vampires and/or other supernatural creatures come out publicly and demand (and/or get) the vote and other rights, but people are prejudiced against them.
  38. At the end of the story, one of the characters starts to write This Very Story that we're reading. (Often, some or all of the opening paragraph is repeated at the end.) [This is different from just ordinary first-person narration; this kind of story is usually in third person, and the Writing This Very Story is usually presented as a surprise.]
  39. An unnamed character turns out, in the end, to be God.
    1. The toy that the character is playing with (or the project that they've been working on) turns out to be Earth or the Universe.
  40. Story consists of recipes for, or descriptions of, killing and eating sentient beings (usually fantastical creatures).
  41. There's a machine that cryptically predicts the manner of a person's death by printing it on a slip of paper; the machine is never wrong, but often it's right in surprising or ironic ways. [There's nothing wrong with the Machine of Death anthologies, but we've seen a large number of MoD rejects, and we're extremely unlikely to buy one.]
  42. Story is set in a world in which some common modern Western power structure is inverted, and we're meant to sympathize with the people who are oppressed in the world of the story. [Such stories usually end up reinforcing the real-world dominant paradigm; and regardless, they rarely do anything we haven't seen many times before.]
    1. Women have more power than men, and it's very sad how oppressed the men are.
    2. Everyone in the society is gay or lesbian, and straight people are considered perverts.
    3. White people are oppressed by oppressive people with other skin colors.
  43. Kids with special abilities are kidnapped by the government and imprisoned and tested in a lab.
  44. Title consists entirely of a string of digits.
  45. Baby or child is put in danger, in a contrived way, in order to artificially boost narrative tension.
  46. Someone encounters some magical or otherwise apparently impossible phenomenon. In the end, it turns out that it's real!
    1. A character says things that the other characters consider to be irrational, paranoid, or obviously impossible, but in the end it turns out that character was right!
  47. The author attempts to lead the reader to think a character is going to die, but instead the character is uploaded into VR or undergoes some other transformative but non-dying process.
  48. Someone dies and then wanders around as a ghost.
    1. They meet other ghosts who've been around longer and who show them the ropes, and/or help them come to terms with being dead, and/or explain that nobody knows what happens after ghosts move on to the next stage of the afterlife.
    2. They're initially stuck in the place where they died or the place where their body is. In some cases, they eventually figure out how to roam the world.
  49. Aliens and/or far-future posthumans think, talk, and behave just like upper-middle-class Americans from the 20th or early 21st century.
  50. The story's main (usually only) female character doesn't have much subjectivity; we see her only (or at least primarily) through the idealizing eyes of a male character.
  51. Humanity's problems (such as war, mental health issues, disease, or bad political leaders) turn out to be secretly caused by aliens, demons, or other inimical non-humans.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Sanitarium Magazine - Issue 28

I love reading, but with the happy arrival of my baby girl, I don't really have much time for it. These days the only opportunities in which I find myself lost within pages are in the dark hours when my gorgeous baby girl decides she will rather stay up than sleep like normal people!

So in these times I have been reading mostly short story anthologies. I've forgotten how much I love reading them. From a writer's perspective it's great to have an opportunity to explore lots of different writing styles and genres in a small amount of time. You can learn a lot about the craft of writing through reading short stories.

I'd heard about Sanitarium Magazine whilst researching magazines to send my short stories to and amazingly they published one. Consequently I rushed out and bought it, nothing beats seeing your own work in print.

P.S I'm in this issue but it would be a bit weird to review myself.

Lady Pandore  by Scarlett Marmont

I loved the imagery within Marmont's dark and seductive writing style which she builds with minimal effort, the words are alive on the page. With writing that is so enticing, there's barely a need for a plot. It comes as no surprise to see in her bio that she has a talent for writing poetry as well.

Replenished  by William Michael Davidson

This little tale draws you immediately, did he or didn't kill someone? Did his car really kill someone? Can cars do that?! An unusual horror story. There's a great streak of dark humour in Davidson's words which lures you into a false sense of security until its gets really dark, and the ending is pretty neat too.


The Wolf  by Shoshana Kertesz

A curious tale about a strange and mysterious missing uncle and a rattled maid who seems to be hiding some truth. The protagonist Mr Bence finds himself trapped in  a dark family history full of ghosts, spirits, and of course a benevolent wolf hungry for more than just meat.

Pest Hag by Edward Ahern

A killer virus has taken hold of a community but can anyone stop the spread before it's too late? How is it spreading or more worrying who is spreading it? There's a palpable tension that builds throughout, Ahern is clearly a very experienced and accomplished writer. The incorporation of real life historical figures gives it a realistic and believable feel which adds to its terror. For me this tale had the feel of a supernatural episode of the brilliant tv series - 24, starring Keifer Sutherland as Jack Bauer.

Spineless - Brooke Warra

Spineless is a very short short story that is expertly given, I don't want to say too much about it incase I give anything away, except that it is very unusual and very clever.

Residual Haunting - Jamie Wargo

A deeply unsettling tale of enduring suffering and loss, the consequences of making bad decisions and the atonement for macabre sins. Wargo is great at spinning a tale that is truly horrifying.

twitter: @ladywargo

Gimme Shelter - Anthony Hanks

Beware the Midwest mangler! Hanks tale touches on real lfe scary issues that we all fear such as betrayal by the one you love the most and scary car journeys on your own in the dead of night. This is a great tale that makes you ponder even after the last word has been ingested, can't say too much about it incase too much is revealed, but it's good!

All in all this is a great magazine that is well worth a read you can buy it in kindle format or print from  here

Sunday, 1 February 2015

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

I stumbled across this book by unfortunately watching it's film adaptation first which although is a really brilliant film, meant that I knew the whole plot before I turned the first page. However the film was so intriguing I couldn't resist.

This is the debut novel of Diane Setterfield - and it's a very powerful debut most authors could only dream of. It's a very promising start, she has gone on to write another book titled - Bellman & Black, which is described as a dark atmospheric ghost story that gives The Thirteenth Tale a run for its money.

The Thirteenth tale centres around the life of a fictional novelist, Vida Winter who has always remained elusive until she is struck down by a terminal illness. She enlists the help of a amateur biographer, Margaret Lea, by summoning her to write her biography and learn all her secrets.

To familiarise herself with Vida Winter's work she reads her - Thirteen Tales of Change and Desperation. She finds herself drawn in and becomes desperate to find out the thirteenth tale which is strangely absent.

The style of writing is beautifully gothic and atmospheric, the standard of which many writers dream of achieving but never realising. I still can't believe this is a debut novel, by the time I had read to page 50 I had already bought her second book - Bellman & Black, adding to my ever expanding to be read pile which is seriously beginning to get out of hand.

I found the character of Margaret Lea fascinating. She seems trapped by her love of books rather than liberated. The author does not disclose her age she is described in a way that suggests she is middle aged but I had a suspicion she may well be younger than that.

She seems very lonely still mourning the loss of her twin who died at birth, she has never married or had children, much like Vida Winter. But these two characters are utterly different.Vida Winter seems to have led a very interesting life but claims that she is nothing and her books were only written in order to fill the void.

On the other hand the lives of the Angelfields seems monstrous and haunted by tragedy, they are aristocratic but barbarians, beautiful but savage. They live by no rules and in a sense they are free, free from society but also trapped within the confines of Angelfield House.  Isabelle tries to leave on a few occasions but she is always drawn back.

It's a book that you want to take your time with and read slowly to savour every word much like dining out at  a fancy restaurant. This book was constantly by my side and I found it irresistible to put down much to the annoyance of others.

There is a tension that builds up throughout the novel, you get a sense that Margaret is trapped and needs to break out of her boring inhibited lfe, but will she? You also get the sense that something terrible will happen the Angelfields afterall it seems to run in the family, And what happened to the twins? How did the fire start?

The story is haunted by many ghosts both dead and living. Margaret seems a ghost moving through life invisible to others, Vida Winters is about to be a ghost. I wonder what are her motivations for revealing all to Lea? Is it penance, atonement, confessional? Is she telling the truth or just having a last laugh. She speaks of being haunted by a girl with red hair and green eyes, is this her twin and does she owe her dead sister something?

Dianne Setterfield is a natural when it comes to creating both suspense and mystery. She raises many questions and does not fail to answer every one. The ending was really satisfying and moving. Overall the book is beautifully written and never fails to hold a readers' attention.

You're seriously missing out if you don't read this book.